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Orlando City vs. FC Cincinnati: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Eliminated from Postseason Contention

Benji Michel’s goal in stoppage time rescues a point but the Lions are now winless in seven games.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City’s winless skid reached seven games (0-3-4) after a 1-1 draw to expansion FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. However, Orlando’s result ended up being meaningless with New England clinching the final playoff spot at home against New York City FC and eliminating the Lions from postseason contention.

Benji Michel’s stoppage-time goal lifted the Lions (9-14-10, 37 points) out of an embarrassing loss to the expansion side, and gives FC Cincinnati (6-22-5, 23 points) the new MLS record for most goals conceded in a season, with 75 — with one match left to play. Allan Cruz had Cincinnati ahead for much of the game before that late equalizer, when the hosts started to sag deep and absorb pressure in an effort to cling to the one-goal lead (sound familiar?).

James O’Connor was no doubt happy to have Joao Moutinho back in the starting lineup, giving him his preferred back line along with Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, and Ruan. Will Johnson and Sebas Mendez joined Mauricio Pereyra in the midfield, with Nani, Dom Dwyer, and Tesho Akindele up top.

From the opening kick, Orlando City wasn’t good enough. The Lions couldn’t string passes together, failed to move quickly enough, telegraphed opportunities to allow the hosts a chance to cut them out, and gave too much space to attackers in the box.

Orlando’s first decent attack came in the ninth minute when Nani unlocked the defense with a superb ball to Akindele on the right. But the break melted down when the Canadian’s cross for Dwyer was well behind the striker.

Emmanuel Ledesma barely missed picking out the far corner with a curling effort a minute later, as he was given far too much space at the top of the area.

Disaster struck at the 13-minute mark when Moutinho pulled up lame with an apparent leg injury and had to be subbed off for Kyle Smith, making it a short return for the Portuguese fullback.

Rowe was called into action in the 25th minute after a quick Cincinnati throw-in. After Akindele passed the ball to no one and out of play, the restart was taken quickly and only a good stop by Rowe kept the hosts from opening the scoring.

Johnson smashed an outside-boot effort just wide in the 30th minute as Orlando went through about a five-minute good spell of possession and buildup.

Six minutes later, a ball played into the area found Akindele, who flicked the ball to get past goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton but then couldn’t direct his second touch on frame as he ran out of room at the goalpost and his effort was just wide.

Cincinnati came right back down the field and forced two saves from Rowe. The first was from Roland Lamah’s blast that the goalkeeper parried off his own crossbar and out. Cincinnati sent it back into the middle where Cruz flicked one toward goal but Rowe caught it.

Four minutes later, the hosts opened the scoring. Mendez turned the ball over on one of his now well-known “kick the ball back where it came from with the first touch” efforts and Cincinnati countered. Orlando momentarily fought the counter off but got caught on the recycle, as Cruz ended up with the ball all alone in front and he easily slotted home in the 40th minute.

There were shouts for a penalty from Cincinnati late in the half but no clear and obvious error was found and the half ended 1-0.

Cincinnati led in shots (9-4), shots on goal (4-0), and passing accuracy (83%-80%), while Orlando held a bit more of the possession (54%-46%). Aside from chances and shots on target, the biggest discrepancy between the sides was fouls, with Orlando being called nine times to Cincinnati’s three.

The Lions came out with a lot more intensity in the second half but fantastic goalkeeping helped Cincinnati hold the lead. Tyton denied two excellent shots by Dwyer in the second half and nearly did enough to keep his team in front.

Pereyra did well to send Nani down the left flank in the 48th minute, but the captain couldn’t quite cut his cross back enough to find Dwyer and Tyton collected. Two minutes later, Dwyer sent a point-blank header on target from a Pereyra cross that forced a great reaction save from Tyton to keep it out.

Orlando kept coming, with Ruan fizzing a cross just a bit too far out in front of Dwyer in the 51st minute. Johnson then blasted a shot that appeared to be headed in but deflected off a defender and out for a corner kick in the 54th minute. Nani then fizzed a cross through the area off a short corner give-and-go with Pereyra, which was just out of Dwyer’s reach and no one made a back-post run for the easy tap-in.

Nani found Dwyer again in the 67th minute and the striker made a nice move to stop the ball with his heel, shook his defender, then turned and fired a shot labeled for the corner but Tyton again got down to make the save.

Cincinnati was content to sit back, stay organized, and absorb pressure, resulting in more opportunities for the Lions. If this sounds familiar and if it sounds like a recipe for disaster, it’s only because you’ve seen it several times this season, only the other way around. So the Lions kept coming.

Johnson made a nice run, then made a cheeky no-look flick to Dwyer in the box. Dwyer tried to smash it out of midair but got under the ball and it skied over the bar. Three minutes later, Nani smashed a header just wide. In the 88th, Johnson again continued his run into the area and had a free header off a cross but he mistimed his jump and it sailed high.

Just when it looked like the breakthrough wouldn’t come, it did. Nani sent in a cross nearly a full minute into stoppage time that Dwyer got his head to and nodded backward. Second-half sub Michel ran onto it and smashed home his fourth goal of his rookie season to level the match. Dwyer and Nani each got an assist, giving the captain double figures in helpers (10) this season to go with his team-leading 12 goals.

Both teams had half-chances to find a late winner, but Cincinnati had the best opportunity, as the Lions got caught out and Ledesma ended up behind the defense. Jansson did just enough to put him off, and Ledesma dragged his shot wide in the 95th minute. Mueller then won a corner at the other end but it was cleared and the final whistle blew.

Orlando ended the season series 1-0-1 against FC Cincinnati, despite being out-shot (16-13) and having fewer shots on target (7-3) and a worse passing accuracy (83%-78%). Orlando managed more possession (54.6%-45.4%), largely due to Cincinnati sitting back in the final half hour of the match.

With Columbus beating the Philadelphia Union, the Lions fell to 11th place in the Eastern Conference, so…hey, better draft position, right?


With New England’s 2-0 win over New York City FC tonight, Orlando City will finish up its season at home next Sunday against the Chicago Fire at 4 p.m. ET.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 3/4/24

Lions lose big, Tigres is up next, the USWNT wins, USMNT news, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. No, I’m not feeling very merry either, but it’s a tradition at this point. The good news is that we don’t have to wait long for Orlando City to get a chance to make us forget about Saturday. In an effort to help with that, let’s get to the links.

Massacre in Miami

If you’re like me, you turned off Saturday’s Orlando City match at some point. It was easily the worst showing by an Oscar Pareja-coached Orlando City team. Typically, these Lions are mentality monsters and do not give up. I’m not saying that any of the coaches or players will say they did, but the results speak for themselves. I think it best to just put it behind us and move on to the Tigres match, but if you want to revisit it — or if you were fortunate enough not to watch but still want the details — you can read our match recap.

Up Next: Tigres

The early part of the season doesn’t get any easier for Orlando City as the Lions are set to face Liga MX giant Tigres UANL in a Round-of-16 match in Concacaf Champions Cup. Our own Nic Josey touched on the upcoming match. Unlike the previous matches against Cavalry FC, the Lions will play the first leg at home. The match is tomorrow night at 9 p.m. at Inter&Co Stadium. Tigres is coming off a 2-1 loss to Toluca in Liga MX competition. Hopefully, the Lions can shake off the Miami result and take it to Tigres.

USMNT News

It couldn’t happen before the Orlando City match, but Inter Miami is reportedly trading DeAndre Yedlin to FC Cincinnati. Good timing, guys.

In happier news, Malik Tillman scored a very nice goal for PSV against Feyenoord in the 2-2 draw. Tillman made a nifty move through the defender and then slotted it inside the left post.

Tillman isn’t alone in scoring for the Eredivisie club, as both Ricardo Pepi and Sergino Dest have also scored goals this season. In all, the three have 24 goal contributions so far. That ties Mexico for the most by players from another country.

Brentford will be looking to replace departing striker Ivan Toney, and Norwich City striker Josh Sargent is a contender to make the move. Sargent has 11 goals for Norwich so far this season. Christian Pulisic received online death threats after he goaded two Lazio players into receiving red cards in AC Milan’s 1-0 win over the Serie A opponent.

USWNT Rebounds, Blanks Colombia 3-0

The USWNT bounced back from a 2-0 loss to Mexico in the group stage to defeat Colombia 3-0 in a quarterfinal match in the Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. started early with a converted penalty kick by Lindsey Horan. Former Orlando Pride player Alex Morgan drew the foul in the box for the USWNT. Jenna Nighswonger and Jaedyn Shaw added two more goals in the first half. There were no second-half goals, nor were any needed. The U.S. will face Canada in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Free Kicks

  • Xabi Alonso’s Bayern Leverkusen moved 10 points clear atop the Bundesliga after their 2-0 win over Cologne. It’s a little bit funny that Harry Kane made the move to Bayern Munich and the club might not win a trophy because of Leverkusen’s amazing season.
  • NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman spoke about the growth of women’s soccer in the U.S. amid the joint bid with Mexico for the 2027 Women’s World Cup.
  • In a result that everyone hated other than Manchester City fans, Manchester United wasn’t able to help out the rest of the world, falling 3-1 to City on Sunday.
  • Catarina Macario scored a goal in her first match back from injury in Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Leicester City.
  • The match between Real Madrid and Valencia ended in a 2-2 draw. It also ended on a controversial call when the referee blew the whistle just as Jude Bellingham was scoring what would have been the winning goal.

That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of the upcoming Tigres and Minnesota United matches later this week. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from a thoroughly unenjoyable outing in South Florida?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Well. Orlando City’s second league game of the season was a thoroughly unenjoyable one, as the Lions got played clean out of South Florida by Inter Miami. As much as I hate to do it, we need to talk about this one, so what follows are my five thoughts from a horrific showing in SoFlo.

Early Mistakes Seal Orlando’s Fate

The Lions barely had a chance to get their feet underneath them before Pedro Gallese was picking the ball out of his net. Cesar Araujo received the ball in Orlando’s defensive third and immediately tried to play a blind pass backwards, but it went straight to a Miami player. Once the ball made its way from Lionel Messi to Julian Gressel to Luis Suarez, the latter made no mistake and scored to put OCSC into an early hole from which it would never recover.

Tough Night for Two Lions

Speaking of mistakes, that wasn’t the only one that Araujo made during this game. Miami’s second goal came as a result of Rodridgo Schlegel getting pulled out of position and Araujo failing to track the run of Suarez, who found it all too easy to fire past Gallese and double the deficit for Orlando. Schlegel was also culpable for the third goal, as he was too slow to step up with the rest of the back line, and prevented the tally from being called back for offside as a result. Almost no player in purple had a good game, but it was a particularly rough night for two guys who are normally so good for OCSC.

Offensively Anemic

The Lions didn’t look bad going forward for a lot of this one. They managed to get the ball into some good areas, but just had trouble getting the final ball right that would lead to a chance. The introduction of Luis Muriel and Nico Lodeiro after halftime helped provide a spark early in the second half, but Orlando ultimately couldn’t find a way through and the score only got more and more lopsided as a result. When OCSC finally did fashion a clear-cut chance for Ramiro Enrique, the forward didn’t place his shot far enough in the corner and Drake Callender made a good save as a result.

Lack of Effort Worsens Scoreline

Somewhere around the 53rd minute, things really started to devolve for the Lions. Multiple turnovers in the team’s own half led to chance after chance for the home team, and Miami eventually made Orlando pay. The fifth goal will make for extremely unpleasant viewing, as Dagur Dan Thorhallsson decided to not close down Suarez on the wing, giving him way too much time to put the ball on a plate for Messi to head home, while the rest of the team took their time jogging back as Miami broke forward in transition. Orlando kept coming forward doggedly, but the lack of effort on display at times at the back was shocking and uncharacteristic to see.

Wake-Up Call

I have no idea what happened in this match. As soon as the first goal went in, almost the entire team looked slow, out-of-sorts, and on its heels when Miami had the ball. That sort of thing is unacceptable in any game, but especially in this particular fixture. Yes, the match against Tigres is looming large on Tuesday, but the lineup Oscar Pareja put out was not one that suggested the Lions were punting on this game to throw everything they had at Tigres. Instead, an almost first-choice XI turned in perhaps the worst performance we’ve ever seen from an Orlando team coached by Oscar Pareja. It’s possible that we’ll look back on this game as the moment that this team came together and kicked onto bigger things, but in order for that to happen the Lions need to take a good, hard, brutally honest look in the mirror.


I’m sorry to say that’s the worst Orlando City performance I’ve seen in a very long time. Thankfully, the season is a long one and the Lions have plenty of time to right the ship and get back to playing in the manner we’re used to seeing. I think we’ll learn a lot about what we should expect from this team on Tuesday against Tigres. OCSC has a chance to respond the right way and make a statement, and you can bet I’ll be looking for one. Until then, vamos Orlando.

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Opinion

Strong Early Season Competition an Opportunity for Growth

Schedule congestion and tough opponents present opportunities for growth.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

It is hard to imagine a more intense start to the season than the Lions have faced competing in both the regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup at the same time, yet that is exactly the task that the boys in purple find themselves dealing with only days into the season. With both away and home matches already in the books, let’s examine how strong early season competition can be a key factor in the growth of the squad as the season progresses.

For comparison we can look back to one year ago, as thanks to winning the U.S. Open Cup, the Lions found themselves in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in club history. During their short foray in the 2023 version of the competition, they were matched up against Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL in a two-leg competition. Orlando did something that many MLS sides can not boast by coming out of the first leg in Mexico without conceding a goal and only failed to advance because of the competition’s away goals rule.

At the time, and even looking back through rose-colored glasses, those two performances demonstrated the quality that Orlando City was ultimately capable of, and it was a form which Orlando showcased in the later stretches of the 2023 season.

This year, once again Orlando is faced with stiff competition throughout its early season matches, which present a grand opportunity to build team chemistry and fortitude that will only truly manifest itself as the season progresses. While Cavalry FC may have not presented much a challenge on the pitch, the logistics of starting a season off thousands of miles away in the Pacific Northwest were challenges that the Lions had to face before a 48-hour turnaround to open the regular season against a CF Montreal side which some are projecting to be a surprise force in the Eastern Conference. Sandwich in the close-out leg against Cavalry in the CCC at home some 72 hours later, and you once again have a recipe for tired legs but early season growth through adversity.

Up next was Saturday’s forgettable trip to square off against archrival Inter Miami. A year ago, Orlando City was one of the only MLS sides to truly frustrate one of the world’s best and unfortunately for players, coaches and fans alike, the first meeting between the rival sides in 2024 ended with a landslide victory for Messi and friends. Still, despite the frustrating loss, there are lessons to be learned and mistakes to correct which can only help the squad grow as the season progresses.

As if all of the schedule congestion was not enough, Orlando learned that its prize for dispatching Cavalry in the CCC was a rematch against Tigres, once again in a two-match, survive-and-advance format. The first game will be played two and a half days after having been beaten down by Miami and the second will come a week later, with yet another MLS regular-season match crammed in between.

All in all, once Orlando City is done facing off against Tigres, the team will have traveled roughly 9,700 miles for matches in the first 21 days of the season and played a match roughly every 60 hours. These matches and the quality of the opponents present Orlando and its players with numerous chances for individual and squad growth, and the experience, especially for still a somewhat young team, is something OCSC can draw upon once the late season and playoff push portion of the calendar arrive. I truly believe this early in the season the importance of the results of the matches come secondary to the opportunities for growth when faced with so many challenges so quickly.


Let us know in the comments below if you think that the early season match ups against quality opponents will ultimately hurt or benefit Orlando City and, as always, vamos Orlando!

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